The John Anson Ford Theatres is a center that fosters the excellence, diversity, vitality, understanding, appreciation and accessibility of the performing arts in Los Angeles County. Its programs nurture artists, arts organizations and community, and provide a gateway for the people of greater Los Angeles to discover and appreciate cultures of their region and the world.
The Ford strives to be a world-class community performing arts center that celebrates and reflects the diversity of the people of Los Angeles. As such, the Ford improves the health of community arts and cultural organizations through its programming, community partnerships, and the strength of the cultural richness of Los Angeles.
The John Anson Ford Theatres are owned and operated by the County of Los Angeles. Located in a 45-acre County regional park, the facility is run through a three-way partnership between the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Ford Theatre Foundation.
The John Anson Ford Theatres complex is one of the oldest performing arts venues in Los Angeles still in use. Situated in the Cahuenga Pass, the venue consists of the 1,200-seat Ford Amphitheatre and intimate 87-seat [Inside] the Ford theatre. Each year, the Ford partners with L.A. County-based arts organizations to present an eclectic season of culturally diverse music, dance, theatre, film and family events.
The amphitheatre was built in 1920 as the site of The Pilgrimage Play. The author, Christine Wetherill Stevenson, believed the rugged beauty of the Cahuenga Pass would provide a dramatic outdoor setting for the play. Together with Mrs. Chauncey D. Clark, she purchased this land along with that on which the Hollywood Bowl now sits. A wooden, outdoor amphitheatre was built on this site and the play was performed by noted actors every summer from 1920 to 1929, until the original structure was destroyed by a brush fire in October 1929.
The present theatre, constructed of poured concrete and designed in the style of ancient Judaic architecture to resemble the gates of Jerusalem, was built on the same site and opened in 1931. The Pilgrimage Play was again performed here until 1964, interrupted only by World War II., In 1941 the land was deeded to the County of Los Angeles. The Pilgrimage Play continued to be presented until a lawsuit in 1964 forced its closure because of its religious nature.
In 1976, the Pilgrimage Theatre was renamed the John Anson Ford Theatre in honor of the late L.A. County Supervisor's significant support of the arts. John Anson Ford (1883-1983) helped found the L.A. County Arts Commission, encouraged the Board of Supervisors to support the building of the Music Center and led the County's acquisition of Descanso Gardens, among many other achievements. The theatre was used intermittently for Shakespearean theater, jazz concerts and dance performances until former County Supervisor Ed Edelman revived the historic theatre, spurring the creation of the Ford Amphitheatre Season (originally called "Summer Nights at the Ford") in 1993 and obtaining funding for capital improvements to the facility.
From a nascent program of only 12 performances that first year, the Ford has now blossomed into the only facility of its kind. Dedicated to reflecting the diverse cultures of Los Angeles County, the Ford is committed to both artists and audiences; traditional and contemporary works. With its popular multi-disciplinary performing arts summer season, a series of theatrical works mounted during the winter months, interactive events and community, the Ford has become a hub for the surprising, the unusual and the intriguing.
The Ford’s beautiful historic site and buildings require maintenance and renewal. During the past several decades, the County of Los Angeles has made over $6.1 million in capital improvements to the facility to meet modern safety, access, and performance standards. For more information about the facility, click here.